Jobseekers, what is your goal?
If you said that your goal is to get a job, you answered incorrectly. That's like an author sitting down to write the great American novel; the goal is too lofty and too nebulous, and can seem daunting and cause anxiety.
Speaking of authors, in 2003, author Michael Lewis wrote the bestseller Moneyball, which chronicled the unconventional player-evaluation techniques of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane and the rise of using detailed statistical analysis to evaluate baseball players, a technique known as sabermetrics.
Lewis details sabermetricians' attempts to debunk the myth that certain widely accepted statistical evaluation methods are the be-all and end-all of player evaluations (e.g., runs batted in, stolen bases and batting average). Instead, the argument is made that scouts should focus on other, nonconventional statistics, such as on-base percentage and slugging percentage, to be better predictors of a player's success.
In 2011, Moneyball was made into an Academy Award-nominated film, starring Brad Pitt as Beane. In the film, there is a scene in which Beane is talking to his statistics guy (a fictionalized version of real-life statistics guru Paul DePodesta, played by Jonah Hill) and the dialogue attempts to explain the concept of the book. Hill's character explains that given that a team's objective is to produce wins - and the only way a team can do that is by scoring runs, and the only way a team can score runs is by getting players on base - a team's goal should be to get as many people on base (on-base percentage) and to produce as few outs as possible on the basepaths (i.e., to stop attempting to steal bases).
One Play at a Time
Just like the folks trying to win baseball games, jobseekers should break down the process of getting a job into small steps that ultimately will get them into scoring position - getting a job offer. If your goal is to get a great job, what is step one in that process? What is your on-base percentage?
Your goal should be defined by what stage you are at in the hiring process, starting with your resume. The goal of a resume is to get an interview. That's it.
Given that's the case, your resume is your opportunity to put up a billboard that grabs attention and makes the reader interested in the product - you. Therefore, think about the brands and attributes (previous employers, education, skills and accomplishments) that will grab people’s attention.
If you don’t have any work experience, that's fine; just find something that people who don’t know you can understand, such as a high GPA, speaking a second language, or the fact that you lived in another country for an extended period of time. If you still don't have anything to highlight, you should reconsider applying to any job that requires a resume.
Fielding a Few Curveballs
Once you have been invited to an interview, your resume has done its part and moved you closer to your ultimate objective. You've gotten a hit and now you need to think about how you are going to advance to the next base. So, what is the goal of an interview? This one can be tricky.
In a lot of ways, interviews are all the same. You say how great you are, that you’re a hard worker and that your biggest weakness is that you’re a perfectionist. (By the way, never say that’s your biggest weakness; it shows a lack of self-reflection and can come across as pompous or fake.)
The goal of the interview is to make it to the next step in the process, which could be a second interview or even a job offer. What’s important is that you keep the ball rolling; keep your personal brand moving forward throughout the process; focus on what it takes to get to the next base.
Assuming that the attributes you highlighted on your resume made the potential employer think you're sufficiently competent, in an interview you need to connect with the person on the other side of the table. But every interviewer is different and every job is different. So, once you have the interview, learn as much as you can about the employer and the interviewer. Look for paths of connection and exploit them.
As president of a company, I have combed through thousands of resumes and done hundreds of interviews. I look for fire; does this person have a motor, a drive to succeed? I look for attitude; does this person think positively and have the ability to come up with solutions? I look for work ethic; is this person going to be willing to put in the time and have the dedication it takes to be extraordinary?
Finally, good bosses and employers can see through canned answers and fluff. Be authentic, be honest, and be yourself. If you put yourself out there and you don't get the offer, then the job was not the right fit for you. Just keep swinging for the fences.